Although the impact of emotional health challenges is well documented in the literature, its impact and consequences for the workforce and the work environment is ever increasing and prevalent during the COVID-19 pandemic. Four out of ten adults reported symptoms of anxiety and depression during the pandemic. Seventy-eight percent experienced additional stress and about 56% have reported increased worries about their future.
Depression Affects 7% of the Workplace Population
Most, if not everybody, is aware of this feeling called depression and its range of consequences and unique manifestations amongst different individuals. According to SAMHSA Center for Depression and the Workplace, about 16 million or roughly 7% of the population may be suffering from depression. Early symptoms may be evident in adolescence and the 20s onto mid to late adulthood. Anyone may suffer from the consequences, but women experience and report it more than men.
It is noteworthy that about 50% of this group does not seek treatment according to the American Psychiatric Association. The cost to the employers is more than 44 billion dollars and this does not take into account the emotional consequences to the individual and their families.
How is Depression Manifested in the Workplace?
Listed below are some of the obvious and not so obvious changes in the individual:
- Withdrawing from the group or team – isolation
- Becoming indifferent or apathetic – not taking pleasure in work
- Delaying, procrastinating, and lower productivity
- Having problems with concentration, becoming scattered and/or somewhat absent-minded
- Feeling tired often
- Low motivation and underachievement
- Impact on relationships by different reactions or becoming short tempered/negative
- Higher absenteeism
Typical Signs Associated with Depression
The above indications will accompany some or all of the other typical signs that are usually associated with depression:
- Feeling sad
- Suicidal thoughts
- Feelings of worthlessness
- Sleep and appetite problems
- Irritability, tearfulness, and may be anger or argumentativeness
- Not future-oriented
- Physical complaints and/or worsening of current medical conditions
- Increased use of prescribed medication, alcohol, and drugs
Over the past decade some workplace strategies have developed recognizing the impact of emotional health and work/life balance on the health of the organization, productivity, retention, and job satisfaction. Lack of recognition, work stress, burnout, inequality, poor working conditions, and leadership and communication problems are identified as some of the factors for employers to pay close attention to. “Clinical depression has become America’s most costly illness left untreated. Depression is as costly as heart disease.”
Steps Employers Can Take
- Awareness and education
- Promoting early recognition
- Address stigma by open and direct discussions
Educating managers, supervisors, and directors goes a long way in addressing this sensitive and vital conversation about work/life balance, conflicts, stress, and other signs that may be evident to address without infringing on individual privacy. Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) are part of the plan but cannot be the only resource.
In view of months of September/October recognizing Suicide Awareness and Depression Screening, it is prudent for all entities to explore and examine ways they are addressing emotional health versus physical health as a benefit to their employees. Sadly, depression accompanied by suicidal thoughts can result in lethality.
Please send your comments and questions to Dr. Max at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)
- American Psychological Association
- Mental Health America
- The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: Call 988
Mansour (Max) Banilivy, PhD, is Director of Clinical Training, Education, and Internship Placements at WellLife Network.